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by Tim Beissmann

The all-new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid has been unveiled in Seoul sporting a unique exterior design and an overhauled petrol-electric powertrain.

The Sonata Hybrid upgrades to a direct-injection version of the South Korean car maker’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Nu’ petrol engine, which produces 115kW of power and 189Nm of torque in this application. The engine is teamed with an electric motor that generates 38kW and 205Nm. Hyundai hasn’t confirmed combined power and torque figures at this stage.

The new Sonata Hybrid will be more fuel efficient than it predecessor, claiming consumption of 5.5 litres per 100 kilometres, down from 6.0L/100km.

The 2015 model upgrades to Hyundai’s new six-speed automatic transmission, which benefits from a lighter torsion damper, new engine clutch, does away with the torque converter, and trades the old mechanical oil pump for an electric one – all of which lead to more efficient use and transfer of power.

The second-generation Sonata Hybrid also gets a 13.3 per cent-higher-capacity lithium-ion battery pack (now 1.62kWh), which has been relocated under the boot floor, contributing to a load volume increase of 10.5 per cent (now approximately 380 litres).

The unique exterior aims to achieve optimum aerodynamic efficiency, integrating a unique grille pattern, streamlined 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, full underbody cover, and a low-drag rear diffuser.

Hyundai confirmed the Sonata Hybrid will be joined by a plug-in version of the mid-sized sedan later in 2015, as well as a distinctive dedicated hybrid model – believed to be targeted at the Toyota Prius – in the back half of the year.

The Sonata Hybrid is “very unlikely” to head to Australia in the short- or mid-term future, however, according to Hyundai Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas.

Thomas said it was still unclear if the new Sonata Hybrid would be built in right-hand drive, and in any case admitted that the local division would find it “very difficult to compete with the [Australian-made Toyota] Camry [Hybrid]” for price.

He said studies into the previous-generation i45/Sonata Hybrid failed to identify a large enough market for the vehicle in Australia, and he said the business case would likely be even more complicated now with the Australia’s mid-sized segment down 13 per cent this year.

Hyundai will launch the new-generation Sonata in Australia in February. A 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 142kW and 247Nm is confirmed for our market, while a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 183kW and 352Nm has been under consideration and is believed to be a good chance to headline the local range.




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